When you first enter the world of writing, it can feel more like a lawless jungle than the flowery meadow most of us have come to expect. It’s a hard world, after all: one where the dream of seeing your name on the bookshelves can often feel like no more than a distant illusion. There’s a lot more writers than there are publishing contracts, and to make matters worse, countless publishing houses are going belly-up each year.
To that near-apocalyptic backdrop, it can feel tempting to try and elbow your way through; to push down other writers so that you might have the slightest chance of climbing your way up. And indeed, there are plenty of writers who do just that; talking down to newcomers until they hang up their proverbial typewriters. It’s a jerk move, to be sure — but in the end, these are the people who end up winning. Or so they think.
Of course, those smug, self-important writers are very, very wrong. Whether it’s having discussions, doing some beta reading or just giving a pat on the back: lifting up your fellow writers isn’t just the kind thing to do; it’s a great way to improve as a writer yourself. Here are four reasons why.
1) The good ones make you better
It’s an obvious point, I know, but that doesn’t make it any less true: there’s plenty of incredibly talented writers for you to learn from. Some of them are published; many others are not: either way, they’re bound to give you something to aspire to. And many times, that inspiration goes both ways: while they might excel at captivating dialogue, perhaps you’re writing some of the most intriguing characters they’ve ever read.
What’s more, connecting with your peers helps you see all the different approaches you could take. This is writing, after all, and in writing there are no objective rights or wrongs. Instead, your own unique writing style is a mishmash of all the most inspirational words you’ve ever laid your eyes upon — and this is a great way to lay them upon many words more.
2) The flawed ones make you better, too
Let’s be honest: not everyone you meet is going to be mind-blowingly, earth-shatteringly great. And that’s perfectly fine, of course: some might have just started, or write in a foreign language, or simply write as a way of passing the time. As long as they’re enjoying the journey, their writing is just as valid as yours — and that means there’s plenty for you to be learned.
Perhaps surprisingly, flawed writers are often the ones you can gain the most from. When they ask beginner questions, you’re forced to step back and consider all the things you’ve been doing on autopilot; to challenge the many bad habits that have seeped into your own writing. What’s more, giving feedback to flawed writers allows you to identify your own blind spots; to spot mistakes in your work and patch them up while you still can.
3) It helps you stay motivated
For all its poetic splendour, the writer’s life can be a pretty lonely existence. While your characters are out exploring rich and vivid storyworlds, you yourself are often stuck sitting in some dark room, staring at a fluorescent screen until your eyes are just short of melting out of their sockets.
The thing is: the rest of us are going through all the same things. Didn’t reach your word count today? We’ve all been there. Not satisfied with how that one chapter turned out? It happens to the best of us. Drunkenly changed your main character into a belly-dancing werewolf? One way or another, someone’s been there, too.
4) It broadens your horizon
Here’s a little-known secret about writers: when we’re not being writers, we’re some of the most avid readers in the world. And because there’s so many of us, we come from all walks of life. And for someone who lives a million lives for a living, that’s a huge opportunity.
Whether it’s genders, ages, cultures, sexual orientations or favourite starter Pokémon: the writer’s world is a treasure trove of diverse experiences. Talking to other writers, engaging with them and hearing their stories can not just make your writing a lot more interesting; it can help build meaningful friendships that last a lifetime.
Pssht, looking for fellow writers to connect with? You’re in luck: we made a Facebook writer’s group just for you.